The Northwest Gardens construction site (Pic by Marcos Restrepo)
The Northwest Gardens construction site (Pic by Marcos Restrepo)

Broward construction workers begin receiving wages they are owed

By | 09.02.11 | 11:02 am

South Florida construction workers tell The Florida Independent that about 40 to 45 men, after weeks of being stiffed out of their wages, were paid with checks issued by Florida Shell Construction at the Northwest Gardens worksite on Thursday.

Andres, a worker who asked we not use his last name, tells the Independent, ”We had been talking with Florida Shell, Pozo and BJ&K for two weeks to get our money, but now that [the Independent] wrote these articles things happened very fast.” Three workers who had not been paid for their work at Northwest Gardens told the Independent this week they are struggling to pay rent and cell phone bills, and one did not even have cash for gasoline.

Northwest Gardens is an affordable low-income housing project developed by the Housing Authority of the City of Fort Lauderdale and the Carlisle Development Group.

Nelson, a worker who also asked that we not use his last name, tells the Independent that David Sonk of Pozo Construction, as well as an employee of general contractor BJ&K Construction, were present Thursday while workers were given their checks. He is worried because they already told him they won’t pay him unless he can show a U.S. identification, and they would not make the check out to his wife.

Sonk told the Independent earlier this week that when he hired workers he did not ask for U.S. work authorization information.

Jonathan Fried, executive director of an organization called We Count!, writes to the Independent that “requiring an ID to pay [workers] is illegal if they did the work.”

Fried adds that workers who have not been paid can go to Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor to file a complaint.

Enrique Perez, owner of Florida Shell Construction, tells the Independent today that he’s worked with BJ&K for 23 years and they have always paid workers. ”About 40 workers received their checks [Thursday], and the rest of workers will get their checks today, about 20 to 25 workers,” Perez says.

Perez also says that all workers will be paid, and if someone does not have a U.S. identification, they will need “someone who takes responsibility for that worker, so the check can be made in that person’s name.” He says there will be no retaliation against workers who contacted the Independent or sought legal assistance.

Andres tells the Independent he received his check Thursday for all the hours he was owed. Andres had contacted a lawyer earlier this week to explore his legal options.

Andres says he saw about 40 workers receive checks signed by Florida Shell Thursday evening, but that he also saw people not getting paid because “they lack a [U.S.] identification.”

Jeanette Smith, of the South Florida Wage Theft Task Force and Interfaith Worker Justice, told the Independent she met Thursday with Andres to discuss how they could support the workers.

Smith, who was one of many people who worked for the approval of a Miami-Dade county wage theft ordinance, told the Independent that “for a lot of these guys it is a pure miracle that anybody is even offering to pay them so quickly.”

Florida International University report released in November 2010 indicates that “workers in the construction industry had the second highest number of wage violations” reported in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties from 2006 through 2010. The study did not cover Broward, where the Northwest Gardens project is located.

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